Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Cheddar Peasant Boule

 I heard it again this weekend. It was at a gathering of amazing, creative, talented, and fearless women. In this case, however, there was a touch of fear. You could see it in their eyes, the way their voices cracked with a sudden lack of confidence.

The topic was baking with yeast.

You'll hear it all of the time in cooking circles, "Oh, you know, I just can't make anything with yeast in it, it never turns out". I know, I used to be one of those cooks.

Now, I can't get enough. Are my baked goods perfect? Not at all. Do they taste fantastic? Why yes, they do. Oh, and apparently Gordie the Pug loves it as well.

Truth be told, my first loaf of bread came only last year during #Charcutepalooza. I wanted a pumpernickel or rye to go alongside my Cider-Braised Corned Beef. So, I took a deep breath, read the instructions, and low and behold, later that day, I had amazing bread. I was emboldened by such a move, so then I tackled Italian Bread. That recipe has become my go-to for a nice side to any pasta dish, the key is the olive oil, I swear it.

Now, I'll be honest here. Do I make my own bread every week? No. Should I? Yes. This could be that bread. It's simple, with little work or clean-up involved. This could be that perfect bread. It's easily adaptable to whatever you want. It's brought to us by the talented Abby Dodge and a little group we call #baketogether (yes, people, the hashtag is connected to Twitter, and yes, you should try it out, my feed is full of amazing food and people).

"Bake Together" is a group of bloggers, cooks, people, that simply love the art of the baked good. Abby puts a recipe out there every month, and we all re-create it and post our creations. Anyone can join, and after Charcutepalooza, I needed some group baking or cooking love. This is perfect, and frankly, even more up my alley than the meat adventures. Confession here, I actually eat little meat, maybe once or twice a week.

You can throw this bread together in a few hours on a weekend, or in a morning. I'm in love with it, so please go and make it. Oh, and I promise you'll fall in love once you start baking bread. The smell of your kitchen will be irresistible, and you'll come back to it all, again and again.

Cheddar Peasant Boule
(printable recipe)
Yield: 8-10 slices
Source: Abby Dodge

I have added the cheddar to the recipe, but feel free to omit, or add whatever you what. That's what's great about this recipe, it's so adaptable!

  • 3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour (15 ounces)
  • 1 packet instant yeast (1/4 ounce)
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
  • 1 1/3 cups warm water (125 degrees)
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese (I used Cabot's 50% reduced cheddar this time around)
  1. In the bowl of a standing mixer, whisk together flour, yeast, sugar, baking powder and salt. 
  2. Connect bowl to mixer fitted with a dough hook, and take your water (making sure it's 120-125 degrees) and slowly add to the dry mixture with your mixer set at medium-low speed. 
  3. Once the water is well-incorporated, push speed up to medium, and allow the machine to knead the dough until it is smooth, pulls away from the sides and the bottom. According to Abby, this takes about 6 minutes or so.
  4. Now, take your melted butter and grease up a mixing bowl. Gather the kneaded dough into a ball and place in greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap tightly and place in a draft-free, warm area, and allow to rise about 45 minutes, or until doubled in size.
  5. While the dough is rising, butter a 8-inch cake pan (I realized I had only 9-inch, so I improvised), and set aside. 
  6. Once dough has doubled in size, turn out onto a clean work surface. Deflate the dough with your hand, and at this point, shape into a little, fat rectangle, sprinkle cheese across the surface, roll up, and then shape into a 7-inch little rounded loaf. 
  7. Place the dough into your prepared cake pan and place in a warm spot to again double. This time it should only take about 25 minutes.
  8. While the dough is rising again, make sure your oven baking rack is in the middle, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Once the dough has doubled (filled up the pan), place the pan into the oven. 
  9. Bake for 40 minutes or until the loaf has risen about 2 inches above the pan and when you knock on the middle, it sounds hollow.
  10. Tip the bread out onto a baking rack and place right side up to cool. Slice, enjoy! 
And just one more picture of Gordie the Pug, because he's so cute.

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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Spicy Asian Chicken and Noodle Soup

OK, I'll fess up. Detox, well, I made it to day 6, before saying, enough is enough. I felt great, lost a few pounds, had energy, but when friends came bearing wine and Chinese food after shoveling on Saturday, I said, "this isn't for me". That being said, I'm being mindful. It was a good reminder that clean eating does wonders, and I needed more balance. However, it doesn't fit into my whole mantra of moderation, at least for very long.

So folks, I'm back. We won't mention that I'm back after I sampled one too many dips at a little AFC Championship party on Sunday (go Pats!), because that doesn't go well with the whole "moderation" theme either.

I will, however, begin with a soup that, while not my own, is an absolute favorite in this house. This is one of those, down and dirty, simple, "I have no time to really cook", soups. It tastes, however, like you slaved over it. It's a husband favorite, which I know for many of you is very important. It's also got a kick, but one you can adjust on your own. Hey, there's a bonus here as well, it's good for you!

Before I share this weeknight staple with you, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the talented Alex Marciello from the Newburyport Daily News here in town. She dropped by my kitchen, and chatted with me about my cooking, the blog, and my love for everything local. If you want to check out her work, do so in this article that came out in today's Daily News. I have to thank her, and the Daily News, for talking with me. You all know I love my little New England town, and there's something really heart-warming and fun about being in the paper where you grew up!

Spicy Asian Chicken and Noodle Soup
Source: adapted from Cooking Light
Serves: 4

I love this because it takes no time to put together, and I can adjust the vegetables involved with whatever is seasonal. In this case, all vegetables, minus the snow peas, were from local sources. They were either picked up at market, or they had a home in my freezer.

  • 3 cups fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken breast
  • 1/2 cup grated carrot (about 1 medium)
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced snow peas
  • 2 teaspoons Sriracha (I add more, and have extra for serving)
  • 2 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons thai red curry paste (I have also omitted once or twice)
  • 1 (2-inch) piece peeled fresh ginger
  • 3 ounces cooked wide rice sticks (prepare according to directions)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice (I have omitted before as well)
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
  1. Take chicken broth, water, chicken breast, carrot, snow peas, Sriracha, soy sauce, red curry paste, and fresh ginger, place in a large saucepan, or dutch oven and bring to a simmer. 
  2. Prepare your rice noodles according to package directions.
  3. Remove ginger piece from simmering soup, and add your rice noodles, lime juice, and green onions to the soup.
  4. Serve warm with extra Sriracha for a bit of an extra kick if you'd like.

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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Mind-Body Challenge 2012

Avocado with Bell Peppers and Tomatoes
Back to my roots, or at least back to the challenge that really started me blogging much more seriously.

In May of last year, feeling sluggish, I decided to look for some kind of cleanse. You all know me if you read this blog with any regularity, I'm not really into extremes. I wasn't looking for something all liquid, or meals that consisted of cayenne pepper and water. I wanted substance, I wanted to be healthy.

I ended up stumbling upon Whole Living's 28-Day Mind and Body Challenge. It's a cleanse they rework every year in January that focuses on clean, healthy eating. I want to say in advance, that these posts are in no way affiliated with the magazine, I just like to give credit where credit is due.

The detox omits alcohol (uh-oh), caffeine (how will I survive?), dairy (not too bad), processed foods (try to avoid those anyway), added sugars (oh I just might miss you), and gluten (this one is always the most difficult for me).

Last year, I ended up energized and held on to changes I made in the couple of weeks I stuck to it, long term. I'm hoping to hang onto them longer this year.

Roasted Peppers, Cauliflower, and Almonds
So how did this propel me into blogging? Well, I noticed when I started blogging about this challenge, that more people started reading and commenting. It also really pushed me in the direction of trying to eat local as often as possible. It was just simply better for me.

As you know, my commitment to local is always tempered with moderation. In looking at this cleanse, there are a lot of recipes that I can't keep entirely local, but I'm trying to at least keep one local ingredient in the mix. A lot of this stuff is out of season as well, but again, moderation tends to be key.

I'm going extreme for a few weeks, while again, against my moderate mantra, I need a shock to the system every once in a while. You want something a little less shocking? I love what Winnie over at Healthy Green Kitchen is doing with her "One Simple Change" Fridays.

I have to add that when I started this yesterday I also did something for my mind. I started my day off slow, chopping, blending. I reveled in the sun of my kitchen, turned on music, and began my day in a more positive frame of mind. I mean, this is for the mind as well, right?

So my produce bins are packed, I have some shred of motivation. Want to see what I'm eating? Here are the links for yesterday, since these recipes are not my own, but they're definitely worth sharing!

Antioxidant Smoothie
-made with frozen Cider Hill Farm blueberries and raspberries I froze last summer.
-Green Jasmine Tea from White Heron Tea in NH. (Yes, this is cheating, but one cup of green tea a day is helpful and healthy.

Avocado with Bell Pepper and Tomatoes 
-Sadly, the only thing local in this one is the garlic from Tendercrop Farm. 

Roasted Peppers, Cauliflower, and Almonds
-Again, all purchased from Tendercrop Farm in Newbury, MA, but none is their own produce. They work with quality providers in the winter to provide other options they can't grow here in January, and I'd rather support them with dollars since I believe in their local meat/produce options at other points of the year.  Local folks, here's a secret, many times their produce (theirs or otherwise) is cheaper (and MUCH higher quality) than what you can pick up at the local grocery store.

Various things - almonds, fresh fruit, and veggies with natural nut butters.

So wish me luck. I predict some crankiness from the lack of coffee and bread. I also predict a little burst in energy and much more awareness of what I'm eating than I have had in several months. I also predict that by the end I will have not sworn off bread, pasta, or wine for all time. That's just not going to happen.

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Monday, January 2, 2012

Banana Bread Muffins

Happy New Year to all of you!

I hope you capped off an amazing 2011 and are welcoming 2012 with open arms.

I know I am.

I've been silent as things in my life got reorganized with my day job. I've said before, I've been promoted, it takes more of my time, but one of my 2012 resolutions is to re-establish a better work/life balance.

I resolve to be more organized.

I resolve to take better care of myself and my family.

I resolve to get back to writing, baking, cooking, because it truly is my therapy.

I resolve to be more positive and happier.

I resolve to have tea and read a bit (of something) as many nights a week as my tired eyes allow.

This recipe is neither lighter nor local, I promise to get back there. These, however, are homemade, which is again all part of my focus, to make as much from scratch as possible, but also to not go overboard. I like to embrace moderation in all life, and I know that sometimes, convenience trumps all.

It's all part of the resolution to be more balanced overall.

I hope 2012 is already treating you well, and I wish everyone the happiest of New Year's!

Banana Bread Muffins
Yield: 1 dozen

These are perfect for a weekend morning treat. They're easy to throw together and you'll have almost everything on hand to make them in a pinch!


  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 ripe bananas
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into small pieces


Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease/butter your muffin tins and set aside.

In one bowl (or a stand mixer bowl) cream the sugar and butter until fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and beat well after each addition.

In another large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and whisk to combine further.

In a small bowl, mash the bananas with a fork, add milk and cinnamon and stir.

Finally, add the banana mixture to the sugar/butter mixture and stir to combine. Slowly add flour mixture to the bowl stirring as you go until flour just disappears.

Spoon batter into your muffin tins, and set aside.

Now, for the topping - combine brown sugar, 2 tablespoons flour, and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon; cut in butter with a pastry blender or 2 knives (or in a food processor) until mixture resembles coarse meal. Sprinkle topping evenly over batter.

Pop into your oven for 30 minutes and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the muffin comes out cleanly.

Allow to cool in the pan for at least 10 minutes before popping out to serve or cool completely on a wire rack. Pin It